Cao Cao? Game Line Wants You.

There’s only one thing about twitter that I like, and that is official announcements. Etrian Odyssey 3: The Drowned City -- confirmed for the US! I'm a happy nerd.
But that’s neither here nor there. Hardcore Gaming 101 has just opened a new section for “Games of the World,” which quite obviously catalogs the way that people around the world amuse themselves with electronic playthings. The user who goes by “Derboo” posted the most impressive series of articles so far, and including his enormous thread on their forum and an upcoming mega-article, probably the most comprehensive look at gaming in South Korea ever seen in any language besides Korean.
Looking at my blog, I feel bad that I’ve written so little about entertainment of a Korean origin. But until fairly recently, Korean film and video games were something of a blank slate in my mind. In the west, Korean cinema was fairly low profile with few exceptions (Why Has Bodhi-Dharma Left for the East? comes to mind), although that started changing in the early 2000’s when Shiri and Bichunmoo and other Korean action movies started popping up on DVD in the US. And it really wasn’t until recently that Korean games received mainstream attention, and even then, most people don’t really seem too concerned over the fact that a game like Magna Carta 2 cannot rightly be called a “JRPG.”

So I’ve decided to write a few entries over the next couple of weeks on the (South) Korean entertainment that I enjoy and some that I recently and fortuitously discovered. For instance, there is a not inconsiderable number of unlicensed Korean games for the Sega Master System, and as with nearly all obscure gaming-related stuff, there’s plenty of people dedicated to dumping ROMs for our enjoyment. Sangokushi 3 (삼국지 3) is the first game that I’ve tried, which was difficult, since the ROM doesn’t run in Kega Fusion (it runs in Meka, in case you’re dying to try it out).

I guess that I decided to play it safe with this one, as Sangokushi 3 is a fighting based on Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which is a pretty familiar subject. That's not the only thing about the game that might be familiar to some players though. The sprites seem to be ripped right out of the Taiwanese game, Sango Fighter, and many of the interstitial screens bear a striking resemblance to those from another fighter called Jang Pung 3 (same developer... I think), and the health bar/ timer looks almost exactly like the one in Street Fighter 2.

It’s a standard 8-bit fighter, which means it sucks because there are no good 8-bit fighting games, and yes, you are welcome to prove me wrong. Besides the novelty of seeing Korean transliterations of Chinese names transliterated into English (why is there so much English in this game?), Sangokushi 3 is fun to play if only to see where it tries to reference the historical and literary Three Kingdoms. For instance when I fought Guan Yu (Kwan Woo) as Zhao Yun (Jou Woon), it was against the background of a burning ship, a reference to the battle of Chi Bi. For you purists who got pissed at John Woo’s Red Cliff, feast your eyes on Shu’s best engaging each other in a senseless fight to the death as Cao Cao’s fleet burns in the background. Madness.
Speaking of Cao Cao, irony of ironies, he’s not there (what's the Korean transliteration for 说曹操,曹操到?). In fact, it looks like only Shu generals made it into the game. I guess that’s to be expected with seven playable characters. This is the shallow end of the Korean fighting game pool. Jang Pung 3 has more characters and is, to be frank, incredible -- incredible as in hard to believe, that is. We'll be looking into that one soon, as I attempt to write for a whole week about Korean games and movies without making snarky comments about Starcraft, Park Chan-Wook, internet cafes, Kim Jong-Il (I make no promise on this one) or cheaply licensed MMOs made for Japanese franchises.
For more on the Sega Master System, be sure to check out the great resources at SMS Power.

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